Mike Shenk’s Wall Street Journal contest crossword, “Head Count”—Laura’s review
This week, we’re looking for a five-letter word.
We’ve got five longer theme entries. I suspect each one will give us a letter in that word.
- [17a: Rules of behavior]: DOS AND DON’TS
- [25a: Be exclusive, in a way]: GO STEADY
- [40a: Possibly embarrassing recording]: SEX TAPE
- [51a: Changeling]: ELF CHILD
- [64a: Aphorism from Horace’s “Odes”]: SEIZE THE DAY
Hmmm, could the title suggest that the “head” of each themer is something we should “count”? Why, yes! I immediately noticed that DOS is Spanish for two, and that SEIZE is French for sixteen. The other “heads” didn’t register, so I did a little research/googling and found this site that has the numbers 1-20 in a whole buncha languages. Turns out:
DOS = 2 in Spanish
GO = 5 in Japanese
SEX = 6 in Swedish
ELF = 11 in Dutch
SEIZE = 16 in French
Metasolving 101: When you have a bunch of rando-seeming numbers, see if they index anything in the grid. Turns out, yes:
2 = T
5 = A
6 = L
11 = L
16 = Y
The squares indexed by the letters spell TALLY, which is an appropriate five-letter word and our answer. Any other week, I’d have some attempt at humor and maybe a video and random thoughts about whatever, but I’m battling a headache and the usual anxiety of the times, so this will have to do. See you next week.
“GO” also looks like the number 60 and guess what — square 60 is also an A.
The clue at 61D was a signpost indicating which languages to look at. I didn’t notice that until later, but it would have made my solving easier and much less Google-ish,
I wonder if Gaffney sent Mike a message and was like “hey, cool idea for a meta…except I already did it.”
The only reason I was able to get this was because I remembered the Gaffney one from a while back after seeing “elf.” I had no idea elf was a german number at the time, but this time I was ready for it.
No way. I’ve unwittingly used more of Mike’s themes than vice versa. https://slate.com/technology/2009/11/how-could-two-crossword-constructors-come-up-with-puzzles-that-are-almost-exactly-alike.html
Hmm… The excess of examples at 61D led me to notice the numbers, but rather than index them to the grid, I added (tallied?) them up. Given that all the addends were spelled out in the puzzle, the spelled-out sum of FORTY seemed a solid answer.
yeah the clue for 61D was definitely my entry to solving. the only number i recognized was DOS, having the other languages helped out a lot
I never saw the hint at 61D, but ONE at the beginning of 70A threw me off for a while.
I know French and enough Spanish to know that DOS is 2, so I should have had a foothold, but it never even occurred to me that GO, SEX, and ELF could be numbers. I guess my language skills just don’t cut it.
It’s not about foreign language skills as much as it is the confidence to know you’re on the right track. I knew beforehand the same things that you did — DOS is 2 and SEIZE is 16 — and didn’t know the others were numbers. But those two were enough of a pattern for me to go check a website that lists numbers in different languages from 1-100, and there was my answer.
Never noticed the hint in 61D….but noticed the different language numbers at the heads of the long answer. At first I thought the languages would spell out the answer, but then saw the corresponding squares. Interestingly, “sex” is also Latin for six…”elf” is also Hebrew for eleven….and “sei” is Italian for six.
Shenk was a little sloppy though, leaving an English number in the head of 70A…disrupts the symmetry of the other five.